Black and white 'Coal out of our Museum' sign arranged on a fabric collage

Artists and visitors shun Science Museum event over ‘indefensible’ coal sponsor 

Over 1000 tickets booked for the Science Museum’s “India Lates” event on 31 August went unused, as protesters called for the cancellation of the Museum’s new sponsorship deal with Indian coal-producing conglomerate Adani.

Groups including young people, teachers, grandparents, local residents and scientists were represented by protesters holding giant event tickets outside the Museum.

We are boycotting because we cannot allow companies like Adani, who are destroying our planet and our future, to use organisations like the Science Museum to greenwash their reputation.

Ava Bruges, UK Student Climate Network London

Inside, representatives of the South Asia Solidarity Group confronted the Museum Director, Sir Ian Blatchford, about the damaging impacts of Adani’s operations

They also added a ‘Coal Out of our Museum’ message to one of the evening’s centrepieces, a mass participatory artwork with Chila Burman.

The Science Museum announced last October that Adani Green Energy, part of the Adani Group run by Indian multi-billionaire Gautam Adani, will sponsor the museum’s new gallery. 

According to the Museum, “Energy Revolution: The Adani Green Energy Gallery will explore the latest climate science and the energy revolution needed to cut global dependence on fossil fuels and achieve the Paris targets to limit global warming to around 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”

Yet Adani has been heavily criticised for its destructive coal projects in Australia and India, where Indigenous communities are opposing mining on their lands, and is India’s biggest investor in coal-fired power generation. 

It is dramatically ramping up its coal production, and increasing its investments in coal-fired power stations – even though the UN’s International Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency have both warned that reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 means no new coal developments as of 2021. 

A spokesperson for South Asia Solidarity Group said: 

“We’re outraged that Adani – a coal conglomerate which supports Modi’s fascist regime– is sponsoring a new gallery about the energy transition. This sponsorship is a blatant attempt to greenwash the Adani Group’s destructive activities – an attempt the Museum sadly seems all too happy to play along with.”

A ‘Coal Out of our Museum’ message is added to a participatory artwork at the Science Museum’s India Lates.

More than 125 artists, writers and academics – including Anand Patwardhan, Julie Christie, Ken Fero and Shailaja Patel signed a letter to performers at the event, asking them to “stand against companies that have supported both political repression and environmental destruction.”

Documentary-maker Anand Patwardhan, a signatory to the letter, said:

‘Narendra Modi’s favorite crony, the robber baron Adani, is destroying the environment and democracy across India. The UK and other countries will face the same destruction as his tentacles reach out. Nature, science, media, nothing is sacrosanct. I am happy to be part of the world wide resistance.’

The Science Museum is facing increasing concern over its partnerships with major polluters:

  • In October, climate scientist Professor Chris Rapley, a former director of the Science Museum, resigned from its Advisory Board. Just a few weeks later, mathematician and presenter Dr Hannah Fry and Director of the Institute for Research in Schools Dr Jo Foster resigned from the Board of Trustees over its stance on fossil fuel sponsorship, following its decision to strike a deal with Adani.
  • In November, many prominent scientists and former contributors to museum events and exhibits announced that they will not work with the organisation again until it commits to ending its partnerships with fossil fuel companies.
  • Indigenous representatives have written to the museum, asking it to listen to their experiences on the ground and drop Adani. 
  • In April, the museum was forced to cancel a prominent panel discussion at the last minute after speakers withdrew from the event. Several other speakers, artists and performers have withdrawn from events in recent months
  • In July, hundreds of teachers and educators signed an open letter expressing their concern about the Museum’s fossil fuel sponsorship, and pledging to boycott the new Energy Revolution Gallery if it is sponsored by Adani.

The Fossil Free Science Museum collective is a growing group of organisations who have come together over the last year in response to the Science Museum striking new sponsorship deals first with Shell and then Adani. It consists of Culture Unstained, Scientists Warning Foundation, London Mining Network, UKSCN London, Scientists for XR, XR Hammersmith and Fulham, South Asia Solidarity Group, Fossil Free London, Coal Action Network and Jubilee for Climate.

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